May
23
2017
Horschel’s wife shares moving note on her battle with alcoholism
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
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Photo via Golf Channel

Billy Horschel and Jason Day went head-to-head in a thrilling battle down the stretch that extended to a playoff before Horschel defeated Day on the extra hole to capture his first victory at the Byron Nelson since winning the 2014 Tour Championship, along with the season-long FedExCup bonus.

In his post-win presser, Horschel was visibly emotional and alluded to factors off the course that contributed to this title feeling more poignant.

“Not at this time,” said Horschel when asked to elaborate. “Just life gets in the way sometimes and, you know, it’s truly special to be winning on something on a day like this that’s I honestly — I’m not able to talk about it right now. But it’s just lot of stuff happens in the last year and this is just — this is nice.”

Prior to his win at the Bryon Nelson, the week after The Players, Horschel had missed four straight cuts and hadn’t been in good form for quite some time. All of which is understandable with the arrival of two young children — without even the knowledge of his wife and family’s private battle and overcoming a difficult period.

His wife Brittany shared her struggle with alcoholism in the past year via social media posts on Monday:

Billy received some sharp critiques for airing his frustrations on the golf course recently, particularly at The Players Championship. Knowing what we do now, the things he was specifically criticized for make all the sense in the world, especially when he walked over to a group of over-served rowdy fans that had heckled Vijay Singh on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass and lectured them on their behavior and etiquette. I can’t read Billy’s mind, but I could see something like that being a trigger. I didn’t witness what happened exactly, but from what I gathered, it turned out that Billy did the right thing and stood up for his fellow competitor. There were other interpretations of those who witnessed the incident firsthand that didn’t paint the situation in the best light. The other incident involved Billy acting out of frustration and accidentally throwing a club that hit his caddie, which he apologized for the following day via a Twitter video.

Horschel respected his wife Brittany’s privacy, as it was her personal journey and hers to share if she chose. I first saw the moving words she shared via Facebook, as we are friends on there (we met when we went on a whale-watching tour together in early 2014) and she’s been incredibly generous and kind in the few times I’ve reached out to her in the past. I didn’t know if she had revealed her battle with alcoholism publicly, and thought about messaging her privately to ask if it was OK to share, but I felt that was insensitive, even if I were simply doing my job. Of course, now that I think about it, it makes sense that she would have posted the note publicly, as well, since it would inevitably reach the masses in some form or another and better to come from her personally.

Here’s the text:

“Billy was asked yesterday after his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson exactly what was “his own challenges” that triggered an emotional reaction to his victory. Well, that is a question my husband respectfully has left me to answer however way I would like, if at all. However, to not answer would not only be unfair to him, but to my own integrity. I write this nervously, skeptically, but also proudly because I have embraced the woman I have become over the past year. One year ago, I began a journey to a healthy me; mentally and physically. I will keep this simple, “I am an alcoholic.” I say that now without shame. Admitting that to myself, family and friends has saved my life and my marriage. However, the last year has not come without its extreme struggles as Billy alluded to yesterday. I spent the end of May through July last year down in a treatment center in South Florida receiving the life tools that help me win against my disease every day. During that time, Billy had to take on the 100% responsibility of taking care of our then 1 ½ year old daughter, moving us into our new home, competing on tour, and God only knows what else and what all went through that man’s head during that time. He silently battled through, with support from family and close friends, a very sad, scary and trying time. This weekend marked one year sober for me, but also marked a very hard fought year for Billy. He deserves to soak in the glory of his win yesterday, throw his feet up and just let out a long, deep breath. Billy, you are my rock and the living testament of unconditional love. I am so blessed that God chose you to be my husband and father of our children. For those who know Billy, will understand when I say, thank you for just being YOU. That will always be more than enough.”

 

I wrote something similar quickly on my public Facebook page before my flight took off for London last night — it was rushed and whatever first came to mind, but that also means it was entirely genuine. I know it must have been extremely emotional for Brittany to reveal that she was an alcoholic and spent two months in a rehab facility in South Florida, along with the difficult period she and her family endured on her road to recovery. I commend her for having the courage to not only reveal her personal battles but also the bravery and guts it took to unveil a part of her personal struggles with the world.

Whenever someone — regardless of whether I know them personally or not — has the courage to write/talk publicly about their experiences dealing with any type of taboo topic or personal turmoil and trauma, I have nothing but respect and admiration for their bravery. I also find it extremely inspiring and encouraging. Public admissions of personal and deeply private battles are freaking hard because as a society, people, who suffer from these diseases or endured traumatic experiences, are still shamed and the road to recovery is never easy. I feel like I’ve read many brave first-hand essays recently (more so than any other period of time) written by friends or celebrities I admire about their own battles with anything from substance abuse, post-partum, depression, anxiety, sexual assault, and the list goes on.

Despite how fortunate and privileged our lives appear on the outside, many struggle internally and feel pressured to present to the world what is “acceptable” to our current society, where many actively work on “crafting” an image they want others to believe. But I think showing the so-called ugly, real side of life is more powerful and important to rid issues that are still stigmatized to the point of discussing them openly and not feeling judged and/or shamed by others.

The only way we can reach that point is for more people, like Brittany, to have the courage discuss these topics and share them publicly, and it’s simply important for others to know they’re not alone and it’s OK to feel the way you do. Whenever I read a public admission of a taboo and deeply personal battle with mental illness, sexual assault, or other things that cause pain and trauma, like cyberbullying, IVF, miscarriages, terminating a pregnancy, physical injuries, potentially life-threatening illnesses, etc., it inspires me to do the same — not because I think everyone should profess their deeply personal and painful issues to the world, but because many of them are important to discuss in an open forum to understand and empathize with the millions of others who are also battling something similar and the potential to prevent situations from getting to the degree where they end in tragedy.

The only way to de-stigmatize something is for more people to step forward and discuss it so openly that it’s no longer taboo, and we continue to provide support or seek the treatment and tools necessary for people dealing with any kind of addiction, trauma and/or turmoil to work toward the path to healing. Most important, when it comes to trauma triggered by the actions and behavior of others, we need to bring more awareness to the dangers and adverse impact they have, especially to serious issues with equally serious and sometimes tragic consequences for “newer” ills of society, like cyberbullying.

We never want to appear weak, or worst of all, like we’re a victim — that’s like rule no. 1, especially if you have any type of public profile and/or considered part of a number of communities that are vulnerable (which unfortunately, includes being a woman still). Even if everything on the outside looks shiny and perfect, trauma and illness doesn’t discriminate, and they’re not just dumb “first-world problems”; they’re issues that are very real and potentially more prevalent in third-world countries. It takes a lot of work, time and help to reach a point where you feel healed enough to face your insecurities head on and embrace/eradicate the guilt, shame and pain that have made however amount of time feel like you’ve been living in a nightmare.

I’ve written a lot privately about some of my personal struggles that I think are important to share not for any type of “attention” (because, trust me, no one in the world wants to receive “publicity” for any of these things and anyone who would is sick), but to address and discuss collectively as a society and hope to make a difference in even the smallest way.

So, Britt Horschel, here’s to you, Billy and your beautiful family. Thank you for having the courage to unveil something deeply personal, but I know you know that it’s indicative of your strength and your road to recovery — you’ve obviously put in a lot of work to reach this point where you feel healed enough and you should also feel proud.